Competitor prefers cowgirl label

CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle
Cassie Cotton, left, 7 of Clovis and Tristyn McDaniel, 7 of Clovis, watch the team roping event Wednesday at the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association Finals at the Mounted Patrol Arena.

By Tonya Garner: CNJ Staff Writer

Tristyn McDaniel rides a white horse — an animal that has often been fodder for fairy tales.

But, with a sassy swish of her ponytailed head, the 7-year-old fiercely denies any similarities to the storied princesses commonly associated with the regal animal. Tristyn prefers to be called a cowgirl.

The Texico second-grader is one of 120 competitors in the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association Finals. The week-long event, held at the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena, features contestants ranging in age from 6 to 19. Tristyn competes in the 8 and under category in four events: pole bending, barrel racing, calf riding and goat tying.

“I like barrel racing the best,” she said.

In her favorite event, the young rodeo rider is required to maneuver her horse in a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels. The horse and rider with the fastest time win the event.

According to, barrel racing requires speed, agility and excellent control of the horse.

Tristyn said the skills needed for the timed event are second nature to her.

“I’ve probably been riding since I was, like, 1 year old,” she said. Tristyn added she really has no other hobbies, preferring to ride and care for the three horses she uses in rodeo competitions.

Karen McDaniel, Tristyn’s mother, said her daughter was raised around horses and rides daily. The proud mother described her daughter as a conscientious child who dutifully performs chores.

“She has two older brothers but she has never been babied,” Karen McDaniel said. “People say she’s like a miniature adult.”

That maturity is evident when Tristyn speaks to an adult. Ingrained with politeness, she consistently answers questions with “yes, ma’am” or “no, ma’am.”

Having just finished her pole bending event, the youngster stood casually among her peers, one foot propped on the railing, as she watched her older brother, Ethan McDaniel, compete in the team roping event.

When her 17-year-old sibling missed his mark by mere inches, Tristyn stomped her small booted foot and shook her blond head in sympathy.

The rodeo events are definitely a family affair for the McDaniel clan. According to Tristyn, her brothers Ethan and Dustin spent countless hours working with her on her goat-tying skills, an event she will compete in later this week.

“They (brothers) taught me a lot,” Tristyn said. “They just kept showing me.”

At Wednesday night’s calf-riding event, Tristyn took a spill off her calf and the calf stepped on her. She was taken to Roosevelt General Hospital and examined, according to her grandmother, Lydia Blevins.

When Blevins called to check on Tristyn, she said Tristyn answered the phone and said she was going to be alright. Blevins said she asked the youngster if she planned to compete again today, and she said she did.

“She’s a tough little gal,” Blevins said.

According to Karen McDaniel, Tristyn is ranked second in the High Plains for a rookie.